Meat import substitution a go, says Samoa’s Minister of Agriculture & Fisheries

Chicken shortage highlights need for meat import substitution strategy, he says
Sources: M.P.M.C. Press Secretary, July 27, 2017/ Samoa News edition- Oct. 24, 2012

With 70% of beef currently being imported into Samoa, there is a huge opportunity for local farmers to enter the market as commercial sellers, according to Samoa’s Minister of Agriculture, Laaulilalemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao Fosi.

And with the recent and unexpected shortage of imported chicken on commercial shelves, which may have lasted less than a week, the MAF Minister, who is also in charge of livestock, remains firm on the government’s conviction to start a meat import substitution strategy.

With that in mind, since July 2012, the World Bank and the Samoan Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries have been working with these farmers through the Samoa Agriculture Competitiveness Enhancement Project (SACEP).

Its goal is to support livestock producers and fruit and vegetable growers to improve their productivity and take greater advantage of market opportunities.

Samoa imports 40 containers of meat every month at a staggering cost and as an import substitution, the Livestock Division under the umbrella of the Ministry of Agriculture is reviewing chicken farming, says the Agriculture Minister.

Soon to be opened are chicken and poultry farms at the Livestock Division’s home at Vailima. The project is in line with the government framework striving for less reliance on imported meat, and to encourage families to take up chicken farming as an import substitution.

Already the Division has procured three incubators to technically hatch broiler chickens for consumption and layer chickens to mass produce eggs.

And 200 imported chicken broilers are also on island.

“With the incubators, we have the capacity to supply broilers and laying chickens to not only commercial farms but also families who may be interested” to start “a small chicken farm for their own food security,” said Laaulialemalietoa.

The project’s longer-term aim is to support farmers to increase production and improve processing to meet domestic needs.

“We’re thinking big and starting small with our meat import substitution,” said the Minister. “The ultimate target is for local livestock farmers to meet 50% of our meat import needs.”

Aside from poultry and piggery industries, cattle farming is also a major component of SACEP.

The chicken and piggery farms at the Livestock Division Vailima will be dedicated and commissioned in the near future.

BACKGROUND

AMERICAN SAMOA FOOD SECURITY

In October 2012, Samoa News reported that because American Samoa depends on imported food, a comprehensive assessment report for the territory cites food security as a vulnerability, which the federal and local governments are called upon to address.

Ensuring food security for American Samoa has been on the forefront of ASG efforts for at least the past four years as local farmers and families have been urged to return to the land and sea in order to be self sufficient instead of depending on imported foods, which will also cut down on costs of food items.

Titled ‘Addressing the Threat of Long-Term Energy Supply Disruption: a Strategic Energy Assurance Plan for American Samoa’, the two-year comprehensive assessment report was carried out by Arizona-based Westmoreland Associates.

The report points out that American Samoa is heavily import dependent, including food imports. Additionally, any threat to the continuance of an economy based on frequent resupply of food and provisions, including fuel, leaves the social and economic infrastructure of the territory less able to sustain an energy supply disruption.

Under Food Security, the report quotes one source, who “estimates that there is roughly a 20-day supply of food in American Samoa homes, stores, and warehouses at any given time.”

In the comprehensive assessment report, it states that while the land and sea provide food to the American Samoan people, food imports represent the dominant source of food bought and consumed on a daily basis in the territory.

“Loss of energy supplies for more than a few hours, in the absence of back-up generators, causes the spoilage of fresh and frozen stores of food and could quickly result in spot food shortage,” it says.

In addition, the inability of cargo ships or planes — especially those carrying perishable foods — to take on adequate fuel once in American Samoa could also cause an interruption in their re-supply visits.

“This represents an additional vulnerability should energy supply disruptions last beyond a few days,” the report pointed out.

Food security and the availability of locally grown produce was part of the focus of the July 2012 Farm Fair hosted by the Department of Agriculture with support from the local business community including the Chamber of Commerce and the American Samoa Power Authority.

Then-Agriculture Department director Lealao Soloata Melila Purcell Jr., told Samoa News at the time that “we need to look at the food security that we have from the local farmers” and what is available in agricultural produce grown locally.

Additionally, the department is also trying to find out from farmers what they are not growing locally and the government can work on adding other produce for them to grow for local consumption.

A target of the government in 2012 was to work closely with DoA and local residents to grow breadfruit, which is considered food security and self-reliance. The goal is to use a cross breed breadfruit that can be planted and harvested year round instead of by season.

American Samoa has been working with the Breadfruit Institute in Hawai’i for use of the cross breed breadfruit.

There has also been a push to develop hydroponic farming in the territory, not only through the DoA, but the Agriculture, Community and Natural Resources (ACNR) division of the American Samoa Community College (ASCC), with the USDA funding a non-profit organization, last year — the Pacific Youth and Community Development — with a $400,000 grant to develop hydroponic farms.

Earlier, in 2012, Pava Farms dba Avegalio Farm Pavaia was able to do business through a loan from the Farm Service Agency, according to the USDA Newsletter- April 2012.

It quoted “Edward Avegalio, proud husband to Fiatele Porotesano Avegalio and father of three daughters” saying, "I am a strong advocate of food security. I believe in investing in Agricultural practices that work, and I believe that as members of the global community we can all make small efforts to invest in ourselves by growing small gardens to help increase awareness and build back some of our self sufficiency.

“It's time for us all to ‘farm boy up’ and get dirty experimenting with what kinds of crops we can each contribute for personal use. If we each foster this attitude, just imagine.”

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